Guest Speaker: Tom Wishart “The Death of the 9 to 5”
It’s 9.15 on Monday morning. You’ve been involved in the new working week for a whole fifteen minutes and already life seems that little bit greyer. By 9.45 you’re on social media, scrolling past posts of beaches, drinks with small umbrellas, and that person you went to school with who is now doing far better than you are. The worst part here is that there’s no escape until 5pm or at least there used to be no escape. These days, the traditional routine of 9 to 5 work is dying out. Thanks to the advancement in technology and a shifting social paradigm, the standard 40-hour, I-work-the-daytime week is no longer attractive, or even necessary. With millennials saying that they’d much rather chose where and when they work – which matters as by 2025, 75% of our workforce will be comprised of millennials – it’s clear that the way our work routine is dictated is changing.
“I employ designers across the globe, from the U.S to Indonesia,” says Brian Lonsdale, owner of professional logo design company Repeat Logo, “as long as they meet their deadlines, I don’t see the problem with the hours they keep.” Brian’s attitude is being mirrored across many industries, particularly those centred around technology. “This idea that you have to keep the traditional 9 to 5 hours because ‘that’s how it has always been’ is ludicrous. If all the signs are shouting that something is not working, you look for new ways to operate.”
Reasons behind the Revolution
In previous years, individuals would work in a sole industry for entirety of their career. Now, job-hopping is the norm, with the average employment length for a working being four years. The reasons for this are varied; globalisation from technology allows remote working, competitive marketplaces for employment give employees the ability to “shop” for better jobs, and a better international movement allows for a larger pool of job opportunities. The “Great Recession” is also a contributing factor. With budgets having shrunk by dramatically since 2008, competition for work is high. This has resulted in workers, particularly millennials, adopting a fluid approach to employment.
The Rise of the Mobile Workplace
A rising trend is that of the digital nomad. Characterised by individuals who are not tied to one physical location and travel frequently – either related to their line of work or simply alongside – digital nomads have the freedom of choosing where and when they work. Often self-employed or contracted, these nomads exemplify the change in attitude towards working in the office space. Armed with a laptop, a dongle, and a desire to themselves of physical restrictions, this new breed of worker is influencing the wider mentality on working hours.
“As long as I get my work done, everyone’s happy.” Dean Gray, a Glasgow-based freelance designer, has spent the last decade building a platform to work remotely from. “I’m not sure if I’m quite as nomadic as some of the others out there, but I have deliberately been taking contracts that allow me the flexibility I desire.”
Shifting to Online Presence
Traditional business opening hours have always been 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. With the rise on the internet since the 90s, however, companies have been able to move their sales and customer service, the two biggest areas of customer-facing business, online. This means less need for a high street 9 to 5 presence. While many industries still follow these hours due to a need to be physically available (think lawyers, accountants etc.), others have been able to shift their presence – and as a result their employees – away from the standard 9 to 5.
Pick A Country, Any Country
The globalisation of work forces is another contributing factor in this area. Despite a feeling of rising nationalism and xenophobia, worker’s migration is at an all-time high. With the potential pool of both employers and employees having drastically expanded, both parties need to work harder to stand out from the crowd. From an employer’s point of view, this could mean offering flexible working hours.
The Benefits of Flexible Hours
The benefits of switching to working hours for both employers and employees are tangible. Ideally, the benefits should be mutual, but at the end of the day as long as one side benefits without the other side suffering, it’s a winning situation.
- Avoid that rush hour commute. Assuming the employee is still an on-site worker, coming in to the office later in the morning means they can avoid the rush hour stress at both ends. This is perfect for industries that don’t require dedicated 9 o’clock availability for clients, such as designers.
- Flexibility to meet life responsibilities. Have a young family? Exercise classes that are scheduled inside traditional hours? Recurring appointments? Flexi-time gives the employee the ability to successfully balance both work and personal commitments.
- Reduce stress induced burnout. Being able to take a break from the demands of work when they begin to take their toll without incurring the wrath of the boss is not something to be overlooked.
- A more comfortable working environment. If able to choose their working locations, such as digital nomads do, employees can produce higher quality work in a shorter time. Feeling comfortable in a working environment is crucial to higher employee efficiency.
- Increased moral. Employees who feel trusted and in control will have higher moral, leading to increased productivity and loyalty to the company.
- Reduced staff turnover. Linked to the above, if an employee is happy at their place of work, they are far less likely to look for new positions. Considering the cost of training new staff can be high, companies can cut costs by ensuring their current staff are content.
- Become a high value target for employment. If a company listens to, respects, and treats their staff well, they will be an attractive target for high value job seekers. This could result in massive cuts to recruitment costs as potential employees with proactively contact the company, reducing advertising costs and times.
The Future of the Working Week
While the old working week is beginning to die out, it’s not done yet. There are industries which, by the name of the beast, have to maintain the traditional hours. Some managers simply prefer the structure given by 9 to 5. Others maintain that is has quantifiable benefits to productivity.
These views are not necessarily wrong, but they don’t fit the growing trend of flexible working hours. Simply put, employees are becoming less invested in living to work, and moving towards working to live. The ability to manage all aspects on one’s life as one sees fit is attractive to the majority of the working populace, meaning that the flexible working week is not only here to stay, but going to be a prominent feature of the office-scape in the near future.